Talbot County residents sue Maryland Department of Environment

Placeholder while article actions load

A group of Talbot County residents filed suit against the Maryland Department of the Environment on Friday over its approval of a massive development on the Eastern Shore that they say would pollute the Chesapeake Bay.

The lawsuit, filed by 11 residents and the resident-led Talbot Integrity Project, escalates a nearly 20-year battle over plans to raise about 2,500 homes in Trappe, Md., a rural town of about 1,200 people.

It alleges that a sewer plan for the Lakeside at Trappe development approved by the agency would further pollute a small creek that leads into the Chesapeake Bay, in violation of Maryland law.

“MDE is willing to let a developer put substantially more sewerage into an antiquated treatment system that is discharging outrageous concentrations of nutrient pollutants into an already impaired little waterway that feeds into the Choptank,” Dan Watson, a plaintiff and the founder of the Talbot Integrity Project, a recently formed organization fighting the development, said in a news release.

In 2020, the agency greenlighted the developer’s plans to hook up the first 120 new homes to the town’s outdated wastewater treatment plant, which was discharging pollutants into a tributary of La Trappe Creek that empties into the Choptank River and eventually the bay. The state agency’s approval allowed the developers to break ground on the project’s first phase last summer.

Maryland Department of Environment is failing to protect the Chesapeake Bay, critics say

After learning about the existing wastewater treatment plant’s discharge violations from residents, the Talbot County Planning Commission voted to rescind its initial approval of the plan in November. But, the Talbot County Council decided in March not to approve the Planning Commission’s retraction; the state agency has also not reversed its approval of the plan.

Agency spokesman Jay Apperson said in an email that the MDE is in the review process for the final decision regarding the Lakeside permit application, and the department would review any litigation regarding the permit application.

The lawsuit alleges that by continuing to let the project move forward as planned, even after the Planning Commission determined that hooking up the 120 homes to the treatment plant is inconsistent with the county’s comprehensive plan, MDE is violating a state law.

The battle over the Lakeside development in Trappe dates back to 2003, when the town was financially struggling, and Rocks Engineering Co., the northern Virginia-based company behind the development, promised to fund some of the town’s municipal services in exchange for 924 acres for the project.

The company also agreed to build a new wastewater treatment plant on-site to replace Trappe’s outdated water and sewage system that was partly responsible for the town’s $3.5 million debt.

This Maryland town needed growth to survive. Nearly 20 years later, some say growth could destroy it.

The project’s advancement, nearly 20 years later, has riled residents and environmentalists who want to reduce the size of or entirely stop the development, which some fear would change the character of Trappe.

The current sewage plan holds that 120 homes will be connected to the existing water treatment plant until the development’s new wastewater treatment plant and spray irrigation system are built.

Environmentalists unhappy with the state agency point to other criticisms of MDE in the past year: In November, it did not alert the public about a sewage spill that sickened at least two dozen people in St. Mary’s County. In August, Blue Water Baltimore, a nonprofit behind the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper, reported finding high amounts of bacteria-polluted wastewater coming from the city-operated Patapsco and Back River sewage treatment plants, which the MDE is supposed to monitor.

Blue Water Baltimore went to federal court in December alleging that the plants have been violating anti-pollution laws since at least 2017, and the MDE filed a complaint in Baltimore Circuit Court against the city-operated plants earlier this year.

The Talbot County lawsuit is being funded by donations from over 150 county residents, according to a news release.

Source link


Widgets on side panel

Don’t miss

Translate »